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As UK airport drop-off fees soar – read our full guide and top tips including how to avoid them

As UK airport drop-off fees soar – read our full guide and top tips including how to avoid them

A new guide compares the ‘kiss and fly’ charges at airports across the UK

Finding a kind friend or family member to take you to the airport is not as cheap an option as it used to be.

Now, when weighing up the best way to get to and from the airport before setting off on a family holiday, you need to take into consideration more than just the fuel costs and time it will take your driver.

As your airport taxi service also faces increasing charges for using the designated drop-off areas at most UK airports.

Airport specialist Airport Parking and Hotels, is now helping designated drivers to plan ahead by revealing the range of so-called ‘kiss and fly’ charges at the 20 top UK airports.

It found that most airports charge a drop-off fee with the cost varying widely, for a set time, often just five or ten minutes, with extra charges for going over the limit.

The guide reveals costs and allocated times for dropping-off – as well as pick-up and parking – at UK airports including Manchester, London Gatwick, and Newcastle Airport.

Most expensive and cheapest airport drop-offs

​Of the airports investigated, London Stansted was among the most expensive, charging £7 for 15 minutes with Bristol, Leeds and London Gatwick charging drivers £6 for 10 minutes.

The cheapest airports, Norwich International and Southampton Airports, charge £5 for up to 30 minutes.

Free airport drop-offs

Only two were found to allow drivers the option of dropping-off outside the terminal for free – Cardiff International Airport and Birmingham International Airport – if drivers spend no longer than five minutes or 10 minutes respectively in the drop-off area.

Airports offering free drop-off may charge after a certain amount of time – Cardiff Airport charges £5 for every 10 minutes parked after the initial 10 minutes.

Free drop-off areas

Most airports do offer free drop-off areas however these come with a time limit and are usually located in long-stay car parks away from the airport forecourt, requiring a long walk or bus transfer to the terminal.

Our 8 airport drop-off top tips and how to avoid charges

  • 1. Research your chosen airport’s drop-off facilities before you travel so that you are aware of the charges, how to pay and stay times.
  • 2. Don’t park illegally on approach roads to drop off passengers, it can be dangerous and security cameras are likely to catch you.
  • 3. Many airports have a free area for drop-offs, you will have a walk though of up to 15 minutes or a shuttle ride to the terminal so this will not work for everyone or if you are short of time. For example, Heathrow Airport offers free parking for 30 minutes in its long-stay car parks and a free shuttle bus to terminals.
  • 4. It sounds obvious but make sure you park at the right terminal to avoid a long walk with heavy luggage – at Manchester for example, terminals 1 and 3 are only a short distance from one another, but Terminal 2 is further away – up to a 20-minute walk.
  • 5. Have any long goodbyes before you get to the airport, if you have an extended farewell when you get there, the costs could escalate – if you are at a Manchester drop-off area for over 10 minutes, you will receive a £25 fine.
  • 6. Make sure the driver has their payment ready, whatever the method including cash or card. Some airports only accept charges to be paid online, over the phone or by setting up an AutoPay account.
  • 7. If you are travelling by taxi, check whether the fare includes the drop-off fee.
  • 8. Don’t forget to consider other options before deciding how you will travel including public transport, off-site parking and shuttle services offered by nearby hotels. If you are parking at the airport it is normally much cheaper to pre-book.

Collection

When collecting loved ones, 14 airports permit collection of passengers from the terminal forecourt. Drivers at nine airports, including Bristol, must collect travellers from the short-stay car parks nearby, with the cost varying from free to £20 for up to one hour.

APH

APH conducted its research in February (2024).

Nick Caunter, APH managing director said: “Asking friends and family for a kiss and fly’ lift may seem like a good option, however once they’ve taken into account the cost of fuel, vehicle wear and tear and airport fees it may cost them a lot more than you think.

“Also, there is an environmental cost to consider from the extra return journey. 

“We advise travellers to do their research before asking friends or family as other options such as pre-booking airport parking can not only be cheaper, but also a more environmentally friendly way to travel.”

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Manchester and other major UK airports criticised for their disability access

Manchester and other major UK airports criticised for their disability access

Major UK airports, including Manchester, have been criticised for their disability access in an annual report.

The Civil Aviation Authority rated Manchester as poor for the help it gives disabled passengers. Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham have also been told to improve.

The report said some disabled people were waiting on planes at Manchester for an hour for assistance. The target time for help is 20 minutes.

The CAA said 16 of Britain’s 30 airports had ‘very good’ services. The largest UK airport, Heathrow, was rated good.

There are three million requests a year for assistance from disabled passengers, with demand growing at 10 per cent a year.

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “We acknowledge the findings of the CAA’s Accessibility Report and are committed to making further improvements to ensure we meet the required standards for passengers who require special assistance.”

The issue hit the headlines earlier this year when BBC reporter Frank Gardner tweeted about his experience waiting on a plane at Heathrow after his wheelchair disappeared.